US: Streaming piracy becomes US felony, and “copyright small claims court” bill passes

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US SenateTwo important copyright protection bills were passed as part of the U.S.’ far-reaching COVID-19 relief and government funding package, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act (PLSA) amends Title 18, United States Code, to prohibit illicit digital transmission services. Violators prosecuted under the act could be imprisoned up to 10 years for multiple offenses and could be fined.

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According to a news release, the PLSA will provide the Department of Justice with the authority to bring felony charges against a digital transmission service that:

  1. is primarily designed or provided for the purpose of streaming copyrighted works without the authority of the copyright owner or the law; or
  2. has no commercially significant purpose or use other than to stream copyrighted works without the authority of the copyright owner or the law; or
  3. is intentionally marketed by or at the direction of that person to promote its use in streaming copyrighted works without the authority of the copyright owner or the law.

Earlier in December, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said that the PLSA is aimed at large-scale criminal streaming services that willfully and for commercial advantage or private financial gain offer to the public illicit services dedicated to illegally streaming copyrighted material.

Read the text of the PLSA 

Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act

The second bill, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (the CASE Act), sets up the equivalent of a “small claims court” within the US Copyright Office to enable individual creators and small companies to defend their copyrighted works from infringement.  The CASE act endured three public comment periods.

Read the text of the CASE Act

Read the CASE Act news release from The Copyright Alliance

Why they matter

Both of these bills had strong bi-partisan support.  According to CreativeFuture, a copyright advocacy group, the PLSA “will fix a loophole in our laws. It will finally allow U.S law enforcement to target large, for-profit criminal streaming services. Streaming piracy now accounts for 80% of all piracy. And, during the pandemic, the number of people who are wittingly or unwittingly drawn to these streaming piracy services has hit an all-time high.”

According to The Copyright Alliance, the CASE Act modernized copyright law by harmonizing criminal penalties for illegal streaming to be consistent with those that have long existed for illegal downloading and distribution.


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